Category Archives: Displays

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

You’ve chosen your dissertation topic because it’s something you’re really interested in – now it’s time to delve into the sources held within Brunel’s special collections to take your research to the next level!

Recent topics that students have researched using our Special Collections include:

  • Politics under Churchill and Attlee
  • London during the First World War
  • Communists during the 1920s and 1930s
  • Clothing of the poor
  • Literary cultures of Victorian railway workers
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Motherhood and bereavement in the First World War
  • Feminism under Thatcher
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Colonial and post-colonial writers at the BBC

Find out about our collections

Special Collections is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by consulting our:

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept in closed access so you will need to make an appointment in order to come and see them. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before we have a guide on our blog.

Dissertation drop ins

You can drop into these sessions at any time to find out more about using Special Collections in your dissertation. These sessions will be held in BANN 328 (access via main stairs/lift).

Monday 21 January 2 -5 pm

Tuesday 22 January 2 -5pm

Wednesday 23 January 2 -5 pm

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Welcome Week 2018

Drop into Special Collections during Welcome Week and discover some of our treasures. We are open on the following days/times:

2018 Welcome Week poster

We look forward to meeting you!

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

Why use Special Collections?

You’ve chosen your dissertation topic because it’s something you’re really interested in discovering in more detail. Delving into the sources in Special Collections can take your dissertation to the next level by making it more original, as well as helping you to develop your research skills.

Recent topics that people have researched using Special Collections include:

  • Politics under Churchill and Attlee
  • London during the First World War
  • Communists in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Clothing of the poor
  • Literary cultures of Victorian railway workers
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Motherhood and bereavement during the First World War
  • Feminism under Thatcher
  • Colonial and post-colonial writers at the BBC
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Feminism in the US in the 1950s

and the Burnett Archive of working class autobiographies has been featured in Radio 4 programmes about the history of friendship and the lives of working people during the industrial revolution.

Find out about our collections:

Special Collections is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by using our A-Z list of collections, or consulting our Special Collections guide, where we’ve highlighted collections of particular interest to English or History students.

You can search our collections by subject or keywords – use the library catalogue for printed material and the archive catalogue for manuscript.

Browse the Special Collections blog, you can use the tags to find posts on particular themes, such as the First World War or trains.

Contact the Special Collections Librarian, or your Academic Liaison Librarian for help.

If you are looking for collections beyond Brunel you will find a list of resources on our webpage.

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept in closed access, so you will need to make an appointment to come and see them. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before there is a guide on our blog.

Dissertation drop ins

You can drop in to these sessions to find out more about using Special Collections material in your dissertation:

Tuesday 23 January 2018 10.30 – 12 noon and 2 -5 pm

Wednesday 24 January 2018 10 – 11am and 2 – 5pm

Reading room and registration area

Special Collections re-opening

Over the summer we’ve been very busy moving to a new Special Collections reading room, with improved facilities for readers and teaching workshops using our collections. Our official re-opening is on Monday 9 October between 1 and 4pm to which everyone is very welcome.

Reading room and registration area

Our new reading room and registration area

Our re-opening is taking place during National Libraries Week, and you’ll have a chance to see some highlights from our collections out for you to discover. This is a great opportunity to drop in and see how Special Collections can support you.

Is there something from our collections that you’d particularly like to see on Monday? Then get in touch via email or Twitter and we’ll see what we can do!

We are still on level 3 of the Bannerman Centre, but now in BANN 328 (access via main stairs/lift). Please ask at the library welcome desk if you need directions.

50 Items 26: Library Art Collections

A library performs many functions; it is a place of study, of discussion and debate, of collaboration and conference, or simply a warm respite from the winter winds. However, one role the Brunel Library performs you may not have noted is that it is also a palace of art.

Bennett

Central concourse, looking east, late afternoon sun by Alan Bennett

The Library walls are ornamented by the Brunel University Collection of Artworks, a 700 item strong assemblage of prints, paintings and sculptures that have been amassed by the university over the course of its history.

 

Their placement in the Library seems appropriate. Intense work demands occasional distraction and taking a break and refreshing the self through enjoyment of art makes sense. Picasso apparently claimed that “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” so a five minute break looking at the Olympic Poster collection must at least give our insides a buff. Art also engenders creativity “A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind” (Eugene Ionesco). Allowing the mind to wander could bring new insight and perspectives.

The Library

The Library by Olwen Jones

 

The University displays its collections in offices, administrative buildings and public spaces across the campus. In the Library you will find several interesting series and types of images. A favourite is the linotype The Library, one of the first things you will encounter upon entering the Library at the Welcome Desk. It is painted by the painter and printmaker Olwen Jones and depicts a cosy room lined with books and featuring an inviting chair. As mentioned, a number of prints belong to the Olympic Poster Collection, which is comprised of framed colour screenprints and lithographs from an international selection of artists. For example, the colourful Olympic Objects by German artist Otmar Alt created for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The poster illustrates a menagerie of abstract animals in primary hues. Certainly looking at these visuals gives new perception into the creativity of the human mind.

IMG_0190

Munich Games 1972 Olympics Poster by Otmar Alt

One of the key collections the university holds is by the painter Alan Bennett, who painted several images of the university campus since the seventies to the present day. The Library holds several of these paintings and they evoke a pleasing glimpse into life outside the Bannerman walls. This is hardly scratching the surface of the many painting, prints and designs that can be explored.

 

Altogether these painting that grace our walls should not be overlooked in the primary pursuit of knowledge, but included as one of the many reasons to visit the Library.

#DayInTheLife

As part of Explore Your Archive week, today we’re looking at a Day in the Life of Special Collections here at Brunel University.

Enquiries
Answering enquiries

 

Most days start with checking for any new enquiries about our collections, answering them, making appointments for readers to visit and checking that reader-related admin is up-to-date. We keep statistics on the number of readers who have come to use the collections, and how many items they have looked at. Most enquiries come in via email, by phone or in person, but we still get an occasional letter in the post. All of our enquiries are logged in LibAnswers, which makes it easy to keep track of statistics, and which also provides a FAQ function for users, to help answer questions we are asked regularly.
Once a week we check our environmental monitoring equipment.

The thermo-hygrograph continuously charts the temperature and relative humidity in our storage area. We have to change the chart paper on this once a week, and, at the same time, we check if there have been any fluctuations in storage conditions over the previous week. We keep the charts to provide us with a record of storage conditions throughout the years.

We use sticky traps to detect insects that might be loitering in Special Collections, as these can indicate further problems that would damage our collections, such as infestations or damp conditions. Fortunately, all we’ve caught so far is one very small spider!

You can find further information about environmental monitoring and pest management on the British Library’s Collection Care webpages.

Environment

The thermo-hygrograph

Pest

A pest monitoring trap

We welcome two of our volunteers in, who are cataloguing part of our Transport History Collection. They have specialist railway knowledge, and their help is vital, as this is a really big collection.

When we have readers in to use our collection we register them and check their ID, get out the items they want to look at, and, if necessary, show them how to handle items correctly. We also invigilate all our readers to ensure that our collections remain secure. In the picture below there is one reader looking at items from our Transport History Collection, as well as our two volunteers. You can find out more about what to expect when you visit Special Collections as a reader on our How to use Special Collections blog post.

readers

Readers and volunteers using the collections

We hold workshops for particular subjects for groups from within Brunel and also outside. You can find out more about them on this blog.

 

 

 

Our collection include both printed books and archival material, both of which need cataloguing, so that users can find the items that they are interested in seeing. You can find items by searching our library catalogue for our printed collections, whilst the archive collections appear on Archives Hub. We fit cataloguing in around everything else that we do and have some help from other library staff members too. Our most recently catalogued collection is the Bill Griffiths Archive, which you can find out more about on this blog post.
Boxes Book shelves

Apart from monitoring the environment, other preservation steps we take, and which, again, are fitted in around other activities, are housing the collections appropriately. For books, this means measures such as having similarly sized books on the same shelf so they are properly supported, and training staff and users in how to shelf them correctly. For archival material we repackage items in Melinex (inert polyester) sleeves and store them in acid-free boxes. We also remove staples, paperclips etc, and replace them with brass paperclips, which won’t rust.

Melinex

Blount Archive packaged in Melinex sleeves, and in an acid-free box

And, once any readers have finished for the day, we reshelve the items they have looked at. Readers are asked to complete a feedback form, and any issues (good or bad!) arising from this are noted so that action can be taken. Two months after a visit, readers who have given permission are contacted with an online survey to complete about whether they have published or will publish work based on their research in Special Collections.

Feedback

Throughout the day we keep an eye on the Special Collections’ social media accounts, this blog, Flickr and Twitter (@BrunelSpecColl), promoting the collections. We design posters to publicise events in Special Collections, and put on displays for these too.

If you’ve got any questions about #DayInTheLife please leave a comment on the blog and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Explore Your Archive week

Picture of a letter from the Blount archive

Letter from the Blount Archive

Explore Your Archive week is an exciting national event in which archives all over the country are showcased and promoted; and we at Brunel Library are getting involved.

Here in Brunel’s Special Collections we have an interesting and diverse range of archival collections and we’re inviting you to come along to one of our drop in sessions and find out more about the archival treasures at your fingertips, and how you can access and use them for your essays and assignments.

You’ll find us on Level 3 of the library, accessed by the green staircase/lift.

Drop in sessions:

Monday 10th November 2 – 4 pm English/Creative writing Come and find out more about our literature collections and the different ways in which they have been used in creative writing. We will have items from the collections out for you to see, and then at 2.00, 3.00 and 3.30 pm brief talks will be given from people who have used Special Collections in their research and teaching. These will be interspersed with readings from creative writing inspired by the collections. There will be plenty of opportunities to find out more and ask questions.

Check out these blog posts to find out more about the collections that have been used for English and creative writing: Writing back and Teaching from the archives.

You can also get a flavour of the collections on our Special Collections guide for English.

Tuesday 11th November 10 am – 12 noon Any subject Maybe you can’t make it to one of the subject-specific sessions, or maybe you’re interested in a different subject to English or History? Then why not join us to find out more about what our collections offer for both English and History/Politics, but also other subjects?

There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.

Wednesday 12th November 2 – 4 pm History/Politics Drop in to discover which Special Collections you might find interesting for your assignments or dissertation. There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.  There is more information on our Special Collections guide for History and Women’s history.